In The Hottest State, author Ethan Hawke’s protagonist says, “Don’t you find it odd … that when you’re a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try”. This is my firsthand experience of that statement.
Incredibly, a much dreaded visit to the dentist a decade ago became not only a reluctant act in the pursuit of dental health, but also my first tentative step in marching to the beat of my own drum, discordant as it may sound to others.
As I was casually paging through an old magazine in the waiting room, an italicised, boldly printed question, not too surprisingly, caught my eye.
“When you are sitting in your rocking chair, a wizened and world weary ninety year old, what will you regret not having done with your life?”
I have long since forgotten the name of the magazine, so am unable to give it the customary credit but the vision of me as a regretful old woman bitterly rocking away my last hours was alarmingly etched on my psyche. Talk about an epiphanic moment! I immediately resolved to stop paddling in the shallows of life and launch myself headlong into the chaotic and often frightening torrents of the main stream. It was time to start living my dreams, especially as I had achieved so few of the ones I’d had as a carefree and seemingly invincible young girl!
That was the start of some radical changes in my life that have, to date, involved travelling to far-flung destinations, moving back to the city that I love, a very ill-conceived attempt at teaching in China (which nevertheless proved to be an invaluable lesson) and starting a business. However, perhaps the most life-changing move of all was when I resigned from my secure, well-paying job and enrolled for a fulltime degree course.
“At your age,” people scorned, “you must be mad! What on earth do you want to do that for?” I was only 47 years old at the time although their comments would make anyone believe I was closer to 87! The more they tried to dissuade me, the more determined I became. Luckily, not everyone was a critic and the love of my life could often be found happily pottering around the kitchen concocting deliciously bizarre albeit nutritiously dubious meals while I studied. His support, both financial and emotional, was unwavering and just goes to show that you don’t have to share or even understand someone else’s dreams to fully support them.
So I started living my dreams, not only for the satisfaction and delight of my future ninety year old self, but hopefully also to encourage all the tired and disillusioned women in the world who believe it is too late for them. It really is never too late; just don’t expect it to be easy. It takes a huge leap of faith to give up the familiar and follow your heart but it’s more than worth it. As Stephen Grellet says, we will “pass this way but once” so don’t waste it by denying yourself your best life. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and remember:
“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t ever stop.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free.
Where will my dreams take me next? Who knows! I only know that I intend to follow them and I fervently hope that, whatever they may be, you follow yours too.